Parenting is never easy and right now I feel I am being pushed to my limits, gently brought back and then catapulted into oblivion. Yes, it might sound over the top, but just as one thing settles down, another thing fires up.
How is it possible to feel so torn about my children’s education while feeling so certain that decisions need to be made?
Why can’t I make the decisions that need making without feeling like my heart is breaking?
After 12 months of stress with Macsen, he began his journey at the Speech & Language Base 2 weeks ago. It’s been a huge success. I would even go as far to say that they have taken Macsen away and replaced him with a different child. He’s just… well… different. He is happy, calmer somewhat and I don’t have a fight on my hands every morning.
He’s been accepted into the class; he’s part of a group. His friends are all like him. While he hasn’t really paired off with anyone yet, I’m not worried. It is still very early days; if he is enjoying school and wants to attend that’s the battle won.
Up until yesterday, I knew the plan. Garreth will continue and finish his education in Welsh Medium & Seren will follow. Macsen will be in the Language Base for 1 or 2 years then transition back into mainstream English medium. For my convenience, Enfys will attend Welsh Medium Nursery before moving into English Medium for Reception, Anwen will just go straight into English Medium.
In one short conversation, Seren changed most of that.
The bottom line is that she is no longer happy attending her current school. She’s had a few problems over the last few years with a few members of her class (this incident of bullying stands out in particular) which has had a really negative impact on her. The school is small, with less than 20 children in each year group so there’s not really any option to get away from bullying if it’s happening (not that it should happen to start with).
The discussion followed along the lines of telling her that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side and that the transition may not be easy. She will leave her current friends behind and go into a school where she possibly doesn’t know anyone.
After hearing that, she was still certain that she wants to do it.
I submitted the forms for transfer this morning. There are no places in her year group at our catchment school, so the only current option is a school a little further away. She will need to go on the waiting list for our catchment.
The next problem I face is Enfys and Nursery. This just throws a whole new (and rather large) spanner in the works. We’re currently going through the processes for additional support for her and we have the multi-agency meeting on the 4th July. I’m feeling drained just thinking about the changes needed.
Time is short and the list of things to be done is longer than the time we have.
I wish there was an easy answer to everything.
As hard as the process of change is going to be, it breaks my heart to think that my beautiful Seren hasn’t been feeling as happy as she should be. Every child has the right to be happy; they all have the right to feel like they are worth something.
If changing schools is going to make her feel less isolated, happier and more comfortable then that is what will be done.
And suddenly you just know it’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.
It’s been a long 14 months, but tomorrow marks the start of the rest of Macsen’s life. He has had such a tough year. Struggles with speech, communication, school, and people have pretty much been the theme of the year. He hasn’t been a happy child. As much as I hate to say it he’s been unhappy, lonely, and destructive.
Macsen, my lovely little boy, the boy who brings me so much happiness and joy, has felt completely lost.
Tomorrow, he starts at a Speech and Language unit. This process has been an easy one. That in itself is something no one expected. Everyone has told me how unlikely it was that Macsen would even be considered, let alone get the place.
Being honest, the school he was attending didn’t think he would get in on the grounds that his behaviour is disruptive, and he can often have aggressive outbursts, moments of general disruptiveness, and just generally not being very nice. I think the staff at the school had already written him off as a disruptive child, who wasn’t going to get anywhere. As much as it hurts to say it, I believe that is the case.
Two people saw through his behaviour. They were the two people who mattered most, whose influence meant the difference between Macsen having a chance and Macsen being labelled as a child with no prospects.
Macsen proved to them what a star pupil he can be. He proved that all he needs is the right guidance; the nurturing of a classroom focused more on his wellbeing than his attainment levels. He proved that he needs more than any other school could offer, and that the right setting will give him a chance.
The emotions I’m experiencing over my new change keep changing. One minute I’m ecstatic and the next my anxiety shoots through the roof. Normal feelings, I am sure.
Tomorrow, my little man starts ‘big school’. Tomorrow, I will kiss my boy goodbye in a taxi outside my house. Tomorrow, I won’t be taking him to the school gates.
One of the biggest challenges for parents is getting involved in the community that is their children’s school. It’s not that they don’t want to, but it’s a big commitment to be a part of a PTA or school governing body, and with jobs and houses and children to manage, one more thing to do can be overwhelming. However, every school does need a parent governing body to be able to allow parents to have a say in the education of their children. The good bit here is that the kids love it when their parents get involved in school life, especially children of primary school age.
The relationship between parents and school staff is so important for cultivating open lines of communication, and public schools are always clamouring for parents to do more and help more, because schools are strapped for cash. Teachers and head teachers will generally always welcome parents wanting to be involved in school life, and here are five ways that you can do that.
- PTA. The parent-teacher association is there to arrange fundraising events and seasonal events for pupils of the school, while raising awareness about the school to the community and organising the kids. Getting involved in this gives you an active voice and a chance to have an input.
- Volunteering. With such a strain on school budgets, volunteers are always appreciated in the classroom and in the playgrounds during after-school classes and clubs. If you are able to volunteer in your child’s classroom, your school would really appreciate your help. Put yourself forward to them and get started when they need you.
- Special Events. Many schools gain some PR by competing in charity challenges, allowing you to raise money for the school or for a charity of your choice. You can use the local newspaper and radio to raise awareness for what you are doing, and rope in the teachers to be sponsored by the kids on their adventure.
- School Trips. Most school trips end up cancelled before they’ve been advertised because there just isn’t enough staff to accompany students. The trips outside the classroom are just as vital to the education of your children as any of the lessons inside, so where you can, volunteer your time to help chaperone the trips and more children will get to go.
- Social Events. Schools up and down the country like to host Christmas balls or prom nights. If you are working and stretched for time, you could volunteer your services as a chaperone for these twice a year events. You can be stretched for time and still help in a small way and schools won’t forget your input.
Finding the time to get involved in the school you have chosen for your children is so important for your relationship with the place that you’ve put your faith into for their education. Don’t be put off by what they ask of you, either. It’s all in a good cause!
When the Reception allocation announcement for September arrived on my doorstep the other week, I had no doubt. Macsen had been offered a place at our first choice. The school is never oversubscribed. There are no issues with class sizes.
Despite the offer from the school of my choice, I still had that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I still felt that there was something missing. There was still a part of me that worried I wasn’t making the right decision for Macsen.
A few days later, another letter came through the letterbox. From the LEA, advising us that Macsen was being considered for admission to the Speech and Language Unit at an out of county school. I knew the application was happening, but I didn’t really think anything would come of it. I know how valuable places at these units are and this September there are just two places available.
The teachers at the unit have met Macsen and in just that short time, she actually got our boy. She could understand him. She managed to sign with him. She communicated with him. He responded well to her. He enjoyed the time spent with him. It was such a positive experience. Hearing her feedback on Macsen and his abilities caused me to cry. I sobbed down the phone to her and told her how much of a difference it makes to hear something positive about him. The phrase that most sticks out is: “he will benefit from a smaller class. He’s a bright boy and he needs the chance to progress and he needs to make friends’.
I agree wholeheartedly with her. He does need friends. Macsen’s world away from his family must be so lonely. He must feel so shut off from the rest of the world. He WILL benefit from being in a classroom with peers who face the same difficulties he does. He WILL grow in confidence communicating with adults who have the time to understand him. He WANTS to learn and attending a specialist speech and language unit will help him to reach his full potential.
Irrespective of my worries about his journey to school and back, I have to do what is best for Macsen. If one of those two spaces is offered to Macsen, then I am grabbing it with both hands. I will sign on the dotted line before anyone can rescind the offer. Being perfectly honest, if bribes were considered legal then I’d certainly be offering one right about now.
Macsen is not a naughty boy. He is a bright, intelligent boy who feels shut off from the big wide world. He is isolated and frustrated by this. I hope we can help him ease this frustration.
When I spoke to the Key Stage 2 teacher at the unit, she explained the application and admission process in more detail. I have included a brief summary below.
- The first stage, which had already happened by the time I spoke to her, is a panel meeting. Members of the panel meet and discuss all the children who have been put forward as potential suitable candidates. The unit receives admissions from 4 local authorities. `
- Stage 2 involves the staff meeting the children who appear to be suitable candidates. They do this in the child’s current educational setting. During the session they interact with the child and assess the child’s abilities – the children who attend the unit are all of average or above average intelligence but have severe speech, language and communication difficulties. If the child isn’t suitable, parents are informed, and the application does not continue.
- Stage 3 is to speak to local authorities and update them on the progress. Invitations are offered to parents of the suitable children to visit the unit.
- Stage 4 involves going back to panel and discussing which of the candidates are more suitable. The 2 most suitable will be offered a place while any other’s will be placed on a waiting list.
It’s a long winded and complicated process and I feel privileged that Macsen is being considered.